Travis d'Arnaud will get bulk of catching duties from now until end of season
MINNEAPOLIS - Travis d'Arnaud looked up at the sign and geared up for his rare opportunity.
Typically, hitters don't get the green light when they're ahead 3-and-0 in the count. That's especially true of rookies in search of their first big-league hit. Yet the signal from the dugout was clear.
D'Arnaud had the blessing to swing away.
"Don't overswing," he thought, just before overswinging in the Mets' 6-1 win over the Twins.
The 24-year-old catcher is still hitless in his first three games as a big-leaguer. But he learned Monday that he will have many more chances to chase that first hit. As expected, the Mets extended d'Arnaud's apprenticeship, in what the organization hopes is the beginning of a long and productive career.
From now until the end of the season, the rookie will assume the bulk of the Mets' catching duties from veteran John Buck, who will make a transition into the role of mentor.
"We're happy with his performance over the last three days," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "Offensively, he's shown a good approach. Defensively, he's played well."
D'Arnaud was guaranteed at least a three-day stint with the Mets during Buck's paternity leave. But with Buck returning Tuesday, the Mets saw enough from d'Arnaud to keep him. To make room, backup catcher Anthony Recker was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.
With that, d'Arnaud assumed the job that the Mets had envisioned for him when he was acquired from the Blue Jays in their blockbuster winter trade of Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.
"It's truly an honor," d'Arnaud said. "I'm very thankful to Sandy and everyone in the Mets organization, especially my teammates here. They've welcomed me with open arms and they've all been great people."
Keeping d'Arnaud in the big leagues gives the catcher better access to instruction, specifically from bench coach Bob Geren, who as a player spent parts of five seasons as a catcher with the Yankees and Padres. He will also gain two more weeks to become familiar with the pitching staff.
Said d'Arnaud: "What an amazing feeling."
Buck was instrumental in d'Arnaud's development during spring training. And even when a broken foot sidelined d'Arnaud for three months, Buck remained in contact with the catching prospect.
"I had a whole bunch of questions for him and he was always there for me," d'Arnaud said. "I'm thankful for that."
It's unclear exactly how Collins will split playing time, though d'Arnaud will almost certainly get the lion's share. Nevertheless, Buck's mandate is clear.
"You can speed up the process of how to handle a major league pitching staff," Collins said. "John Buck has done it for a long time. That's something that's hard to find. You go to those experienced catchers and they can help a young catcher get better fast."
In an immediate sense, d'Arnaud can begin improving his consistency and behind the plate. Though he has shown a strong throwing arm and received praise for his receiving skills, d'Arnaud has also been charged with two passed balls.
Offensively, Collins said he has been impressed with d'Arnaud's patience at the plate, an area in which he has shown improvement in spring training. It's part of the reason that despite going 0-for-7 over three games, d'Arnaud has also reached base five times in his first three games.
Of course, he'll have plenty of chances to swing away.
Said d'Arnaud: "I'm just trying to soak it all in now."